The Daily Heller: Arnold Shaw, Mid-Century Modernist

There are many websites for known and lesser known graphic designers still to be researched and made available for historians and practitioners alike. Mid-century Modernism has been revived in recent years, and one such, the  New Yorker Arnold Shaw (1922-1967) has finally received his due through the diligence of his daughter Susan Shaw. A new website was recently launched devoted to his work in pharmaceutical, identity and editorial design and typography is a welcome addition to online design history resources.

His life follows a path that various New York moderns followed. In addition to work and sketches, the site contains his biography and additional notes from which this is excepted:

“At 15 he won first prize and his first award, for a poster in a New York City Parks Department contest. He majored in Applied Arts at Straubenmuller Textile High School, a highly respected vocational high school, while living in a NYC public housing project.

“By the mid-1940s, ineligible to serve in World War II due to a disability from a childhood illness, Arnold worked days in the art department of RKO Radio Pictures. He attended Cooper Union at night graduating in 1946. While at Cooper, he studied design with Howard Tafton at the Art Students League and attended György Kepes’ illustrious “visual fundamentals” class at Brooklyn College, as well as Alexey Brodovitch’s workshop at the New School.

“In 1948 after a few years freelancing, he set up an independent studio at 19 East 48th Street in New York. Arnold’s wife Dorris, whom he met waiting for an elevator at RKO, assisted him in the studio with production work. In the late 1960s, following his death, Dorris became one of the first women to work in typography sales in New York. . .

“The studio was a magnet for designers, writers, photographers and illustrators who continuously dropped in to borrow a desk, share stories, and exchange ideas about design projects. A small roster of young designers, handpicked from design schools, were hired as assistants. Many moved on to stellar careers in the advertising and design world.”


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